LEXINGTON, Ky.-Kentuckians with incomes below the poverty level face significant obstacles in obtaining healthcare, according to a study by the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health released June 20.
"Poverty is the overriding factor in health status," said JoAnn Myers, who coordinated the 18-month study based primarily on 1990 census data. "If you don't have money, you can't really buy healthcare."
An estimated 13% of Kentuckians, or 431,000 residents under age 65, are uninsured, according to the report.
McCreary County had the highest proportion of uninsured, 19.9%, while Lyon County had the lowest, 9.8%. Owsley County ranked first in percentage of population eligible for Medicaid (43%) and residents below poverty level (51%) and third in residents with no health insurance (19%).
Oldham County had the fewest below the poverty level (6%), and Anderson and Boone counties were the lowest in residents eligible for Medicaid (5%).
The Good Samaritan Foundation sponsored the research that produced the three-volume publication. The study provides health information on all the state's 120 counties with state, regional and national comparative data.
"Hopefully, local and state leaders will take this information and start to design solutions for not only health problems but also some of the social problems," said Arch G. Mainous Jr., president of the foundation.
The study showed that 23% of Kentuckians live in poverty, compared with the national average of 15%, and that 34 Kentucky counties are persistently poor.
"I think by having this information broken down by county, you can dispel misconceptions and preconceptions that people might have," Mainous said. "Local leaders in particular areas might not know that they have the problem they have or they might have perceived their problems a lot worse than it really is, and they can address other problems."
Kentucky's high school completion rate for those over age 25 is 65%, compared with the national average of 75%.
"We hope that by showing what differences there are across the state and highlighting major issues that relate to health, particularly poverty levels and people uninsured, that those who are the policymakers can use that information and better target public funds and private funds to areas that need it the most," Myers said.